TWU

Owner Driver Magazine TWU Column - 2014 December

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1/12/2014 4:15:11 PM

Coming into the festive season, for those lucky enough to be taking a well-earned break, it’s a time for family and friends. But for many in trucking the end of the year can be one of the busiest time of all and I hope everyone stays safe out on the road.
 
Owner Driver, by Tony Sheldon

As the year draws to a close, we’ve seen yet another attack on working families from the Federal Government and Family First Senator Bob Day with the proposed changes to Newstart. The Coalition proposed to delay payments to young unemployed people, forcing them to work for six-months on no pay and no job guarantee at the end.
 
This is nothing more than exploitation of the vulnerable. Senator Bob Day proposed trialing the scheme in South Australia, forcing the unemployed to work unpaid for one month rather than six. Instead of investing in skills and training for young people, the Government is making it harder for them to find work by forcing them to work unpaid and importing workers on 457 visas.
 
The scheme has been criticised by a joint committee on human rights, which has said “the committee considers that the measure is incompatible with the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living”. With unemployment at a 12-year high and youth unemployment at 13 per cent across the country, the Government is showing just how out of touch they really are.
 
Fortunately, we are not alone in our concerns. Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator, Ricky Muir, who recently pledged his support to the Safe Rates campaign, has voiced his opposition to the Abbott/Day proposed changes to Newstart. Senator Muir said he had spent time before entering politics working for the dole and he does not believe there should be any waiting period before accessing unemployment benefits. “Putting people who already have no money in a poverty-type situation by giving them no money is probably going to be very anti-productive,’’ he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
 
Australian jobs should be secure and fair – especially in the trucking industry where work safety affects all road users. That’s why it is so distressing we’ve seen the Federal Government announce they will ease restrictions for the 457 Visa scheme, including the English language and skill requirements.
 
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says foreign workers will fill gaps in local employment shortages, but in reality it just gives employers more incentive to ignore the local unemployed and bring in foreign labour on lower wages and worse conditions. Recent figures show 41,000 unemployed Australians in transport, postal and warehousing, including 8,400 truck drivers. That’s 41,000 skilled and highly mobile workers who could fill shortfalls in employment, but who won’t get the chance if employers simply go offshore.
 
Information from a leaked monitoring report from the Fair Work Ombudsman was recently reported in the SMH (‘Leaked report raises concerns over 457 visa’, 19/10/14). It included evidence that many 457-visa holders are no longer working for their nominated employer or being paid at the rate at which they were promised. One worker was being paid just $28,000 per year – well below the legal minimum wage of $53,900.
 
The report also echoes our concerns about the widespread use of 457 visas which the government insists are available only to employers who "cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work" they require.
 
What this report shows is the 457-visa system is being abused and this exploitation needs to end now. Easing restrictions to foreign workers will only make it worse, with employees too scared to ask for a decent wage for fear of being sacked by ruthless employers.
 
A report by Life Insurance Finder confirmed trucking is Australia’s deadliest job with one in three workplace deaths occurring in the transport industry. Road transport workers are 15 times more likely to be killed at work than any other worker in Australia and 330 people are killed every year in truck crashes on our roads. Importing foreign drivers and underpaying them will only make these statistics worse, with more than 20 years of coroner’s reports, cross party inquiries, and academic research having shown the link between rates of pay for truck drivers and safety on our roads.
 
As one Victorian truck driver said, “I’m so annoyed the Government is easing restrictions on 457 visas. I am sick of people claiming there are no local workers available but then not bothering to make an effort to hire Australians who are looking for work first.”
 
That’s why the TWU are calling for an independent review of the occupations which accept workers on 457-visas to determine what jobs are experiencing a genuine shortage.
 
To do this, we need your help. The more people who sign up to our Aussie Work, Aussie Rights campaign, the more seriously Government will take our demands for:
       Improving and strengthening labour market testing;
       A public register of all 457 visa sponsors;
       A 457 visa program confined to skilled occupations in genuine shortage developed in conjunction with an independent tripartite advisory body;
       Proof business is training Australians in the same occupations where they are wanting to use 457 visa workers, so that skill shortages are addressed over time; and
       No truck drivers on 457-visas, Australia’s most dangerous industry.
 
The Federal Government needs to step up to help Australians find work in Australia. They need to use the 457-visa review to strengthen the scheme so employers have to genuinely try to recruit and train local workers, and ensure foreign workers are employed under the same pay and conditions as Australians.
 
Together we can help make sure that all workers in Australia, regardless of where they come from, have fair, safe and secure work. Pledge your support at www.aussieworkaussierights.org.au



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